Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official
The Briefing Room
2:05 P.M. EDT
This is going to be a BACKGROUND on the illegal immigration policy and initiatives by administration officials. That's how they should be identified. But I do want to let you know exactly who is here. [Names deleted]
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What we'd like to do today is give you as much background as we possibly can on this initiative. I hope that you all have received fact sheets that should have been passed out by now.
The announcement which the President made today represents a culmination of several weeks and months' worth of work by the administration to pull together a number of initiatives and find out how to fund them in response to the World Trade Center bombing in New York and the alien smuggling problem that has existed along our borders over the last several months.
We have looked more broadly than that particular mandate toward the general issue of illegal immigration, and that is basically the framework for this initiative which the President announced today.
The initiative comes in two parts. Firstly, there is a presentation to Congress of some new legislation. This legislation has itself two parts. It includes legislation on expedited exclusion of aliens from the United States, and it includes a particular part on four additional penalties or authorities to deal with the alien smuggling problem -- doubling the penalties, expanding asset seizure authorities, making it a predicate for RICO, and allowing wire tapping to be used by INS under the normal procedures for wire tapping, but with alien smuggling as a predicate.
The second half of the initiative involves a number of programs. It involves an increase in border patrol resources in both personnel and technology. It involves a major expansion and acceleration of the State Department's procedures for issuing visas, including a large-scale communications and computer expansion to ensure that the consular officials overseas have the best information available in order to make decisions. It involves a trial program with the interagency border interdiction system overseas, which will allow the Customs-INS database that the interagency border inspection system represents to work in combination with the State Department data systems.
There are also several initiatives that are involved in improving security working with the airlines. They involve, firstly, a pilot program to expand the pre-inspection program that already exists overseas at five different locations. We also have a carrier consultant program which complements pre-inspection and is basically a program where INS officials visit various locations overseas where there is a high fraud in order to work with airline ticket counters to identify those fraudulent documents and turn those passengers away, and a carrier cooperation initiative which is a program to develop memoranda of agreement between INS and the airlines themselves on measures that the airlines can take voluntarily in order to spot fraudulent documents and turn them away.
In addition to that, we will be publishing in the Federal Register some proposed rule changes which will clarify the basis for which the B-1 business visa is issued. We've discovered that there is a problem in the B-1 business visas which are intended for foreign business being transacted in the United States, have been used for people to gain entry and then find employment within the United States for U.S. firms. We want to clarify what the basis for the B-1 visa is so that we can clear up this particular problem.
In addition to that -- and those measures by and large have to do with preventing people from gaining access to the United States -- we have several measures which are also directed at removing and deporting illegal criminal aliens expeditiously within the United States.
Firstly, as I've mentioned earlier, we have the expedited exclusion legislation. In addition, and an important companion piece to that is the regulatory reform of the asylum process. These are people who are already in the United States, people who come forward voluntarily and say that they would like to change their status from whatever it might be -- whether they're here legally or illegally -- to become asylees. And in this particular case, we have a 275,000- case backlog which we want to try to deal with aggressively by first of all reforming our -- and revising our regulations and then moving through that process expeditiously.
In addition to that, we want to expand the institutional hearing program, which is a program whereby INS officials process convicted and jailed criminal aliens, felons, who are in jail -- process them for deportation while they are in jail so that upon completion of their sentence they can be deported from the United States.
In addition to that, we want to expand the advanced passenger information system in cooperation with airlines so that when passengers board overseas airlines to the United States, the airline sends a manifest across the wires to INS and Customs in the United States. They then can look at that list, determine from name checks whether or not particular individuals deserve more attention and particular individuals deserve less attention and, therefore, more expeditiously clear people through, but make sure that they examine the people that need to be examined.
In addition, we have several penalties and increased investigatory authorities. One of those -- or the four additional criminal alien smuggling items I've already mentioned, we also want to fund the terrorist reward program which the FBI has already been authorized to undertake by drawing on the Asset Forfeiture Fund that the Justice Department has in order to make sure that we have the money to pay for that.
Let me stop there with that brief overview. Let me remind you all that what this represents in overall terms is both the presentation of the legislation and a series of initiatives totalling $172.5 million in money that the President would like to direct at the illegal immigration problem.
I'm happy to take questions, or we're happy to take questions at this point.
Q: A couple questions I wanted to ask about. The first point is that on the regulatory reforms that you're talking about on the deportation and asylum process, what sorts of regulation do you have in mind? What kind of changes are you contemplating? And presumably, the regulations that were -- that are in place now were not put in there simply in order to cause delay. I mean, if some reason for why these are on the books -- I was sort of curious about which ones you want to change and why you feel that they're no longer justified.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The current regulations, when for affirmative asylum claims involve first a hearing -- the current regulations for asylum review involve first an interview before an asylum officer, which itself can be a lengthy process, and then a de novo review before an immigration judge, which can also be a lengthy process, and then an opportunity to go before the Board of Immigration Appeals, and then on to federal court.
We'd like to take a good look at that and see if we can streamline the system and provide an individual with one good, solid opportunity to have their claim heard. And we'll be discussing that with nongovernmental organizations, with folks up at the Hill, to see what would be the best type of hearing to provide in that instance that would be effective, fast and fair.
Q: On that point, how much would you like to reduce -- what is the current average, and what would you like to reduce it down to?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Time-wise?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the time can vary from four months to maybe two years before somebody has an opportunity to have their hearing -- their first hearing. That's unacceptable. We'd like to get our system down so that all claims were current and that they were heard within a parameter of like 90 to, at most, 120 days.
Q: And just to follow up, you said there was a backlog of 275,000 cases now awaiting hearing. If you enact the streamlined process, would you be able to hear those people under the new system?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We'd have to do two things. We need to come up with a plan for how we're going to deal with that backlog, administratively. How can we deal with those sometimes stale claims, sometimes claims that aren't complete, sometimes claims that can be heard right away -- and at the same time come up with new procedures that will allow us to process incoming as well as the backlog claims.
Q: But the people who are backlogged, do they get -- I don't understand. Do they get grandfathered in under the old system so they're entitled to the full set of hearings, including before federal courts?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's part of what we're going to have to resolve.
Q: Exactly where are these people while they're waiting?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, they are in the United States, and many of them have work authorization. They're throughout our states. Many of them have work authorization, and we've identified that that, in fact, is sometimes a magnet for people applying for political asylum.
Q: You mean they're not kept in jail at all? They're just out on the town -- all of them? And they've already got work permits?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Our basic problem is that we're not able to detain everyone who has an immigration claim, because our resources are limited. Some people have to be released from detention, some people don't deserve to be in detention. We're trying to come up with a system so that we can deal with people fairly so that some of the abuses that we've been experiencing we don't experience.
Q: Presumably, if they're threats to society, though, we would detain them in terms of criminal threats to society.
Q: Have you put them through a process whereby you can tell who's good and who's not?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Who's --
Q: It sounds like you don't have any process for them now.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we'll let an INS official --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We do screen all those - - we make a determination of whether, as my colleague said, they're a threat to society or themselves and likelihood to abscond. However, you have to understand that the Immigration Service has a limited space available to us, either facilities we own and operate ourselves or are on contract for us. We have a total of around 6500 beds throughout the United States. Currently, around 60 percent of those are occupied by criminal aliens, so the majority of the asylum seekers are left with -- as we said before, work authorization, and given a date in the future to appear either before an immigration officer or a judge for a hearing.
Q: Can I just follow up on that --
Q: What kind of check do you do on these cases, on cases of people seeking asylum? What kind of a background check do you do?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We would do a background check, as we do on most cases. We have our own indices that we check if someone is going -- for example, if they're there for an adjustment of status, we ask other agencies to provide us background information. There is a fingerprint card that they fill out that we check with state and local facilities and the FBI doing fingerprint checks for us.
Q: How many of these 275,000 people -- do you know where they are? How many of these have just sort of disappeared completely from the system and you have no idea where they are or how to bring them in for a hearing?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, they give us an address, and the majority of them have attorneys of record and are processes that we either send a notice to appear or all the information would go either to the address they provide us or the attorney of record.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Remember, all of these people have come forward voluntarily. These people have all chosen to present themselves to the U.S. government to change status. So in this case, there's less of a presumption that they would be unavailable than in cases at ports of entry where they simply come in, present themselves, ask for asylum, are reviewed. If they're released into society, that may not --
Q: do you have any idea how many of those there are?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can give you the figure, for example, for New York City. Through March of this year we had 15,000 malified entries through New York City --
Q: From --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- from all over the world. People --
Q: What about the time frame -- you said --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm sorry. From September -- I'm speaking of fiscal years now. October 1 of last year through the end of March of this year. About 10,000 of those have applied for asylum in the judge process.
Q: In New York alone?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This is New York alone.
Q: One of the reasons -- the main reason my recollection is why this sort of four-step process has evolved over the years was there are just too many of these for everyone to be heard by someone at the level of basically administrative law judge sort of person.
But the sense was that having them all go before someone who was less trained and less judicial would not provide a fair hearing, so you had to have a multi-step process. How are you going to -- as you try to streamline this, how are you going to avoid either creating a process that's basically just a sham to shove them out the door, or, on the other hand, try to set up a judicial process that will be swamped overnight? I mean, that's been the puzzle all along. How are you going to solve this thing?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, that part we have to decide which way to go. It may be that in our affirmative asylum system the hearing somebody has is a full adversarial hearing before an immigration judge. But that alone will have saved us a very significant step of going first before an asylum officer. On the other hand, in our expedited exclusion procedures, we feel very confident in the skills and sensitivities that our asylum corps officers are bringing to these interviews. I think the goal is to find one good hearing before one properly trained person and to make the system work from there.
Q: On that point --
Q: If the plan announced today would take some of these asylum officers to do these exclusion hearings, wouldn't that then increase the backlog in the affirmative program?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, what we're going to do is we're going to use our most experienced officers to do the expedited exclusion proceedings at the airports. What we are going to do is backfill -- we're going to be hiring for our asylum corps.
Q: How many additional people do you anticipate that you'll need? How many will you take away to the --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we anticipate preliminarily for our expedited exclusion -- I'm sorry -- for expedited exclusion? That we need additional resources for expedited exclusion. In addition, our initiatives provide for as much as even doubling our current asylum corps.
Q: How many is that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we currently have 150 asylum corps officers and potentially through our initiatives we could double that amount.
Q: Of late, of course, there's been a lot of attention and publicity about illegal immigrants, particularly the Chinese boat people and those from Mexico who come here -- people coming here illegally and have gone to work specifically within the U.S. garment industry. I wonder if these sets -- if this policy here -- this announcement, in any way would address that issue.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We will be having an interagency ongoing process that will be reviewing immigration policy in general. And I think that it is in that context we will be looking at illegal immigration in the -- and how it affects the workplace.
Q: Just one other thing here. With respect to the buildup or the increase of personnel on the border with Mexico, is that initiative in any way connected with NAFTA?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't think so.
Q: One of the things that precipitated this review was the World Trade Center bombings. Could you talk about how the figures in the World Trade Center bombings would have been treated differently if these new procedures were in effect?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Those persons who were accused of participating in the World Trade Center bombing who got visas abroad may not have got those visas abroad once this -- if the system had been in place at the time. In other words, we are going to expand our name check system so that these consular officers abroad are aware of any derogatory information that may exist in any of the lookout systems that the border control agencies have --
Q: Do you mean, sir, that they didn't have it already?
Q: [name deleted], let him answer, okay, then you can ask.
Q: I've let him ask already. Do you mean you didn't have it already?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What they had was a microfiche card, which they would check names against a microfiche. The microfiche is not updated on a -- or every time another visa is refused or more information has come; it gets updated about every two months. And therefore, there's a time lag. And in addition, even though those names in some cases were on the microfiche, it was checked by a human, or in this case a human being who worked there said that they did not check it, there are possible errors under the old system which relies on human beings to do certain things before others do other things. This new system we're going to put into place will guarantee that a name check is done whenever a visa is issued. First, we will have the automated name checks in all posts within a couple of years. And then, within six years, five to six years, we'll have machine-readable visas being issued at every post. And machinereadable visas cannot be issued until the name check is done.
Q: How about the sheik? Would he have not been allowed -- would his treatment have different or would he have been deported by now under this new system if it were in place?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The State Department doesn't do the importations. INS -- cover that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: How would he have been treated?
Q: How would his treatment have been different --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Would he have gotten a visa? I can't say for sure whether or not he would have gotten a visa, but I can say that the reasons as to -- all the relevant factors would have been judged before a visa would have been issued. In this case they were not. A visa was issued without a chance to look at all of the factors that should have been looked at.
Q: What about this notion of a safe third country, that if a prisoner arrives here and has stopped in, for example, the U.K. or France or someplace like that; and then an asylum officer asks that person what country did you come through, and that person says Paris, France, that person could be sent back to Paris, because that country is considered safe for that person?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: A person is supposed to apply for asylum in the first country in which they reach. They cannot pick and choose among the countries in the world. When they flee the country of where they think they are being persecuted, then the first country they arrive at, which will accept applications, they must apply there.
Q: So if that person had a stopover in Paris and came here, you would send that person back to Paris because that was the first country the person arrived in?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's one of the options, back to where they came from or back to the country that they originated in. It depends on whether or not they're eligible for asylum.
Q: How many asylum requests do you get each year?
Q: After they've had their meeting with the judge, what happens to their livelihood? Can they apply for unemployment insurance, or what do they do about living and getting food and all that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The people who are waiting for asylum?
Q: Yes -- those who are in and who have talked to the judge and they're given the opportunity to stay here. What do they do about earning a living if they don't have a job?
Q: They drive a taxi in Washington.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Either those in the affirmative asylum process or the asylum process before an immigration judge can request work authorization here in the United States. Normally, we do grant work authorization.
Q: But can they apply for unemployment?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If they're eligible for it, I believe they can. But in the Immigration Service, all we do issue is the authority to be able to work here in the United States. I'm not aware of --
Q: How many asylum requests --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not aware of the benefits that are available under the work --
Q: Could you walk through for a minute how this expedited exclusion process is -- someone gets off a boat or off a plane, says I have an asylum claim.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And if you've received your fact sheet, which covers the legislation, I think it does it pretty well step by step.
Q: Well, there are a couple of questions I had.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay, what will happen is this: Someone will get off the plane with fraudulent documentation or no documentation. They'll present those materials to an inspector. The inspector will identify that there's a fraudulent documentation or no documentation. That person, if they choose to claim political asylum, will then be given an opportunity to have an interview before a member of our asylum corps, a very special unit which is trained in asylum law and principles and sensitivity to refugee issues and international conditions.
Q: How quickly?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We anticipate in budgeting it out, we're thinking in terms of there being a two-hour period for the individual to get off the plane -- let's say two-hour interview with the asylum corps officer.
Q: How long would that be now? What I'm interested in is comparing the -- (unmatched)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: All right. Okay. Right now what happens with these folks is that they're entitled to go into exclusion proceedings, which are proceedings before immigration judges which are terribly backlogged. So in some instances they may be put in INS detention for a limited period of time. But if there are no beds available in detention, those folks, because of a lack of resources, are released. And therefore, some of them will show up at a next -- if they have been given a hearing date before an IJ, some of them won't.
This system, we feel, will help us out in that circumstance. A person will get off the plane, they claim political asylum. We'll have an expeditious procedure for determining whether or not they, in fact, have a credible fear of persecution, whether or not there's a substantial likelihood that, in fact, this person would qualify as a refugee. They'd be offered an interview before an asylum corps officer. We anticipate that will take two hours -- one to interview; one to write-up. If that person is denied asylum, that decision will be reviewed by an appellate officer --
Q: Is that automatic?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We anticipate that it will be automatic and that review will be done by an appellate officer who works for an agency that's independent from INS.
Q: Where will it be? Is this faxed or --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It will be at the airport. We're anticipating that this will be at the airport.
Q: There will be -- a subsequent review of the first hearing will be at the airport?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's right -- at or near the airport.
Q: The same day?
Q: The same day?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If we're able to hear the claim the same day, it will be the same day. If there are 25 people that come in on a certain day, there may be a day or two backlog.
Q: And will they all be detained if, in fact, there is --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.
Q: it's continued?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, they will be detained. That's the advantage of this system. We'll be able to detain people for the short period of time required to fully adjudicate their claim.
Q: Well, suppose they're adjudicated -- what do they do about earning a living? Do they stand on the corner with a tin can or what?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If it's determined that they have a credible fear of persecution, the strong likelihood is that they will be given work authorization prior to their completing their refugee process.
Your question was --
Q: As you're budgeting this thing, your anticipation is this entire process from start to finish can be completed within two days. That's what your goal is --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We're budgeting one to five --
Q: One to five.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In some circumstance it may be 10. An advantage of this system is that it's fast.
Q: Compared to how long now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Compared to many, many months. In the best case scenario with detained cases it's --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We can give you New York as an example. If you're detained, it takes you four months for a process before an immigration judge. If you're not detained, your first hearing to determine whether you should have a hearing process continue takes 18 months. So it's four months for detention -- detained cases, 18 months for the first hearing.
Q: How many do you currently have detained? I know there were a whole lot up at the little hotel outside of JFK a while ago, but I forget what the numbers were.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: How many people we have in detention right now?
Q: Yes. In the exclusion process.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have 5400 people in detention throughout our entire system in all steps of all the processes; not just necessarily exclusion.
Q: In exclusion, particularly, do you know what that number --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I don't have that number with me.
Q: You've got judicial review limited to habeas corpus. How does somebody file for that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The attorney general will be promulgating regulations which will give us more of the procedures applicable to this program.
Q: Do you have any sort of breakdown of border patrol - - where the new border patrol people will go -- a state-by-state breakdown?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, we do not. But it will be done by the work -- our work --
Q: How many border patrol do you have now?
Q: I have a question --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This guy has a question he's been trying to ask.
Q: What if they are found to have a credible claim? What will happen to them then? Will they go into the normal procedures that exist now for a hearing and the process could drag on?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They'll be entitled to have a full refugee hearing, and it will depend -- let's see, after our comprehensive review of our asylum system, we may have a more definitive answer.
Q: Can I get a couple of numbers sorted out here? How many asylum requests do you receive a year?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Which categories?
Q: The ones that are going to be dealt with by these changes in regulation or law.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You're speaking of before an immigration judge or before the Immigration Service?
Q: I'm trying to get a number to reflect the effort that you're undertaking here. How many are affected by the --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right, expedited exclusion. We currently -- last year we had 36,000 people before the -- applied for hearings before the immigration judges.
Q: And there's 600 more border patrolmen on top of how many?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Forty -- I'm trying to remember the latest figures. I think it's 4,400, I believe.
Q: You're in charge of operations and you don't know?
Q: The $172 million on top of what base?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It doesn't all come to INS.
Q: I know that, but you've got a multidenominational number here. What does the -- say, the FY '94 request that you're increasing?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The total INS budget, including user fees, is about $1.6 billion. But of the $172 million additional that's being requested here, about $40 million would be associated with visas which -- it's $45 million, which is a State Department request. And the remainder would go to the INS.
Q: Is it new money?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What's the question?
Q: all new money?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: All new money.
Q: So the hundred --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: All new money compared with the President's budget. All 1994 money.
Q: So the $172 million was on top of the $1.6 billion in raw --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, as I mentioned, $172 million, but $45 million of that is State Department. So if you take out that $45 million, that difference would go on top of the $1.6 billion.
Q: And the 7,000 criminal aliens that you want to expel -- that's on top of what base? How many do you expel a year now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We had 36,000 deportations last year of which 18,000 were criminal aliens.
Q: I'm sorry to be dense about this, but how many --was 36,000 the number of people who requested political asylum last year?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No.
Q: Can you tell us how many people requested political asylum last year and how many were granted it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If we might, there are two ways that people can normally request asylum, and I'll speak very generally and then my colleague can fill you in more specifically. One way is what we call "defensive asylum," and that is once somebody is apprehended by the service or the police department and they are in the country or they're at the border and they say "I'd like to request asylum," that's defensive. Those are not the 275,000 that you folks have been writing about.
Then there is what is called affirmative asylum, and those are people that are in the country here, illegally or legally, who come voluntarily before the service and ask for asylum. And that's the 275,000.
Q: If someone shows up at an airport and arrives at JFK with fraudulent documentation and you say this isn't legitimate and they say "I'd like political asylum," would that be affirmative asylum?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's defensive.
Q: That's defensive asylum?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right.
Q: How many would you say there are here who do not come by voluntarily?
Q: [name deleted], if I could just -- I don't have a sense of how many people seek defensive asylum and how many people seek affirmative asylum and how many end up --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Per year?
Q: per year. And how many end up getting asylum when they go through the process?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. The 275,000 backlog is before the Immigration Service. That's the affirmative asylum process. We receive around 80,000 to 90,000 applications per year.
Q: Before which --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's the affirmative asylum process before the Immigration Service, before the asylum officers that was described.
Q: For which there is the 275,000-person backlog?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay, wait a minute. If I may -- Wait a minute.
Q: How about on the defensive side, how many?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'd like to finish the question, please.
Q: Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The quote before was that it was around --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, there's 10,000 at Kennedy Airport that applied for asylum last year.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- 30,000 before the immigration judges, that's the defensive asylum process that was described before.
Q: That's in addition to the 80 to 90,000 who applied for permanent asylum?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's correct. In other words, remember, the ones that come before the Immigration Service, the 80,000 of which there is 275,000, in the current process now can go before the immigration judge as a second step. The ones that go just straight to the immigration judge, then they go on to the Board of Immigration Appeals and Circuit Courts.
Q: In just the last step, how many people end up getting political asylum in a year?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know the number.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We can get back to you on that.
Q: Well, and how many do not come by voluntarily who are in this country?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't understand the question.
Q: You don't know?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't understand the question.
Q: Does anybody know? Does anybody have an estimate on this immigration?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Using information provided by the Census and information that INS can track, the estimate there is that there are 200 to 300,000 illegal immigrants who enter each year.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And stay.
Q: Did you say entering or here now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Enter.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Entering and stay.
Q: What do you mean?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I mean, there are people who simply cross the border and go back frequently who may be here illegally and they wouldn't be counted in this estimate because they don't remain here, they don't dwell here.
Q: Well, I think Mr. Gore mentioned in his statement today -- that they were going back in the way of thousands in a week. How many illegal aliens do we have coming across the Mexican border every day?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There are over 2,000 apprehensions per day along the southern border. Right now we're --
Q: Two thousand apprehensions. How many is it that we don't catch?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. The estimate was given that there are about 300,000 who enter illegally and stay in the United States, based on the Bureau of Census information. Right now --
Q: Every day, or a year, or what?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: A year.
Q: Where are the high fraud areas where you'll be directing attention on the inbound flights?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right now our major port of entry is New York City. JFK Airport is our largest port of entry right now.
Q: By high fraud, I thought you meant places where fraud originates, where they come from.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, I'm sorry. Right now it's mainly on the Asian subcontinent -- India, Pakistan, China, Sri Lanka.
Q: I wanted to ask a question about the institutional hearing process. A number of folks from California, I think both senators and several members of Congress have been urging that the law be changed so that people -- aliens who are sentenced not serve their sentences here and must be sent back -- something obviously the administration decided not to do. Since I've heard their arguments for why it should be done, I'd like to hear your arguments for why not to --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I actually think that would have some State Department ramifications. We'd be asking, for example, Mexico to allow us to deport people to serve the time in their jails. I don't know if that is something that's been fully reviewed, but it would be new. What we are concentrating on, though, is making sure that we're able to deport alien felons as quickly as their sentences are served here.
With your point, though, I know something that has come up in that respect is that if we were to be deporting people to Mexico after -- let's say they committed a very violent crime, we wouldn't have the same say-so as to how long they stayed in jail, and we wouldn't want to create a situation where it was fortuitous to be an alien and commit a dangerous crime in this country because you know you'd be deported and then you wouldn't have to serve your proper sentence.
Q: You mentioned five areas. What areas are those?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Institutional hearing program? Currently, we're in the states of California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois.
Q: As these new policies lead to more exclusions, who is going to pay for returning these people to wherever they came from?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If it's at the airport, the air carriers put them on the next flight, and they return them from whence they came.
Q: The airlines are going to pay for it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right. They do it now. Anyone who is inadmissible in the United States, the air carriers are obliged to return them.
Q: The numbers I've heard before have been roughly 100,000 asylum cases a year of which 15 percent roughly would be in your target group here under this legislation. In other words, about 15,000 people a year would be coming in and without the documents or obvious fraud situations and would be subject to this legislation, so it targets about 15,000 individuals. On the border patrol, how long would it be before these people were on line approving if the legislation moved through Congress in a timely fashion? And are you committed to the 600 figure, or did I hear the Attorney General right? The Attorney General this morning suggested maybe you might be looking for fewer than 600, with some of the money to go toward equipment.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think the President referenced up to 600, and I think that is yet to be worked out because of what the President also indicated was he wants a properly equipped border patrol. So the proposal, which is one of appropriations, not one of authorizations, is for an additional $45.1 million above the President's 1994 request. That'll go for up to 600, which would presumably be on board by the end of Fiscal Year '94. Because obviously it takes a while to train and bring them on so you don't bring them on all on October 1, 1993, which is the start of the fiscal year; rather, they be brought on throughout the fiscal year. And, again, it depends on how much sensors, how much telecommunications equipment in terms of secure communications and other things like that, you'd be buying, also.
Q: two years from now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the fiscal year starts October 1, which is only a couple of months away.
Q: So a year from October?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Starting in October.
Q: How much of your budget goes for the border patrol now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it's a little bit over $400 million. Probably between $400 million and $500 million, and that's of the total INS, which is about $1.6 billion.
Q: For those of us with parochial interests in various states and localities, can you go down -- not now, but at the end --do you have a figure that would kind of give us an idea of how the staffing would be increased and -- through this expedited asylum procedure?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, we can.
Q: Can you explain -- the President said something about keeping families together. If you're going to try and deport people who have been in prison, but are illegal aliens, but they have families here, how is that going to work out? The old thing about when a baby is born here, it's an American citizen; so, therefore, the rest of the family -- any kind of changes in that, or is he saying no change in that, and that these convicts can be sent out, even though they have families here?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There is no change in what's been proposed here. Normally, if there is any family here and there is equity that may be gained by the individual in prison, then, of course, the equity will take place. Where we're looking is in the institutional hearing program is to have the deportation hearing while they're in prison so they can leave prison. And if they're amenable to deportation, they can immediately be deported from the country from where they're nationals of.
You've got to also remember, if someone is deported and deportation is because of an aggravated felony offense, that they can't come back in the United States for 10 years.
Q: Well, what about the families that are here? Are they sent home with them?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As I said, if there is some equity that they may gain through the family, then they --
Q: What do you mean by that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, their marriage to a U.S. citizen or some other reasons why they can't stay under the Immigration Act; and that equity would, of course, take place. There is no change contemplated on that. If the family desires to depart with the deportee, then, of course, they will do that also.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This program is helpful because normally what happens is someone gets released from prison; and if they are subject to deportation, they get placed in INS detention, which is very costly, and they wait there to have their deportation hearing. This, again, is a procedure that will allow us to more quickly process people's immigration claims.
Q: This was not just a response to the World Trade Center bombing, obviously, but there was concern about the migrant ships. And with most recently off of Ensenada, we've seen sort of a diplomatic standoff surrounding all of this. How would the next three ships that come over the horizon and sort of idle in waters in international waters off Baja, how will they be handled differently under this legislation and under this administrative plan?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, if the legislation were to pass, it would give us an option that we don't have currently for dealing with these boats.
Q: Go out and seize them?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If the legislation were to pass, we would have an authority if the circumstances suggested that it was appropriate to do so, to use the new procedures in the legislation.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: But the presumption here is that the old policy that was announced on the 18th of June would prevail which is that we would seek to keep them outside of the United States if that were at all possible.
Q: Do you have an agreement with Mexico so you don't go through this business again?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have discussed this with Mexico in that instance, and those discussions will continue in terms --
Q: So you don't have an agreement?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We wouldn't necessarily expect a permanent agreement with any individual country on things that have to be decided on a case-by-case basis.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And the State Department is beginning conversations with a number of countries which might be countries where these ships would go first. But as Phil said, if the initiative is passed, then it won't be so important that they be -- that we have the cooperation of other countries, because we will have the tools we need to exclude those people who don't have good claims for asylum in our own country, which we do not have now.
Q: I have a question on the flagged ships, because most of these illegals are coming in ships that are flagged by countries that have nothing to do with the illegals coming in. Are you contemplating any penalty for the countries that flag these ships?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The intent here, as announced by the President on the 18th of June, is to conduct discussions with flag states to see if we can't develop a common set of actions and a basis for cooperation so that, one, we can talk about agreement to board those ships at sea when they are located and identified as flag state ships. Secondly, some discussions on whether or not those flag states are prepared to seize the ships and prosecute the crews. Thirdly, on whether the flag states are prepared to take those ships ashore so that the repatriation process could be through their country, remembering that we still have to consider safety of life at sea, because the ship may be nowhere near the flag state.
And in addition to that, efforts on the parts of flag states to look at those ships that are under their registry, and made determinations whether or not they can determine in advance that such ships might, in fact, already be engaged in alien smuggling and whether or not those countries wish to have those ships retain their registry, if that's their business.
So it's a whole range of discussions that we are in the process of having with the typical flag state that would end up registering a ship of this particular ilk.
I'm sorry, that was the last question. Thank you all very much.
END 2:50 P.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269171